Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Muntjak

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MUNTJAK, one of the native names, now generally adopted in European languages, for a small group of Deer, the members of which are indigenous to the southern and eastern parts of Asia and the adjacent islands, and which are separated by very marked characters from all their allies. They are also called “Kijang” or “Kidjang,” and constitute the genus Cervulus of Blainville and most zoologists, Stylocerus of Hamilton Smith, and Prox of Ogilby. They are all of small size compared with the majority of Deer, and have long bodies and rather short limbs and neck. The antlers, which as in most Deer are present in the male only, are small and simple, and the main stem or beam after giving off a very short brow-antler inclines backwards and upwards, is unbranched and pointed, and when fully developed curves inwards and somewhat downwards at the tip. These small antlers are supported upon pedicles or permanent processes of the frontal bones, longer than in any other Deer, and the front edges of which are continued downwards as strong ridges passing along the sides of the face above the orbits, and serving to protect the large frontal cutaneous glands which lie on their inner sides. The lacrymal pit of the skull, in which is lodged the large anteorbital gland or crumen, is of great depth and extent. The upper canine teeth of the males are strongly developed and sharp, curving downwards, backwards, and outwards, projecting visibly outside the mouth as tusks, and loosely implanted in their sockets. In the females they are very much smaller. The limbs exhibit several structural peculiarities not found in other Deer. The lateral digits of both fore and hind feet are very little developed, the hoofs alone being present and their bony supports (found in all other Deer) wanting. In the tarsus the navicular, cuboid, and ectocuneiform bones are united.


The Muntjaks are solitary animals, very rarely even two being seen together. They are fond of hilly ground covered with forests, in the dense thickets of which they pass most of their time, only coming to the skirts of the woods at morning and evening to graze. They carry the head and neck low and the hind-quarters high, their action in running being peculiar and not very elegant, somewhat resembling the pace of a sheep, hence in southern India they bear the popular but erroneous name of “jungle sheep.” Though with no power of sustained speed or extensive leap, they are remarkable for flexibility of body and facility of creeping through tangled underwood. Another popular name with Indian sportsmen is “barking deer,” which is given on account of their alarm-cry, a kind of short shrill bark, like that of a fox but louder, which may often be heard in the jungles they frequent both by day and by night. When attacked by dogs the males use their sharp canine teeth with great vigour, inflicting upon their opponents deep and even dangerous wounds.

There is some difference of opinion among zoologists as to the number of species of the genus Cervulus. Sir Victor Brooke, who investigated this question in 1878 (see Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London for that year, p. 898), came to the conclusion that there are certainly three which are quite well marked.

1. C. muntjac, found in British India, Burmah, the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Hainan, Banca, and Borneo. The general colour is a bright yellowish red, darker in the upper parts of the back; the fore-legs from the shoulder downwards and the lower part of the hind legs, dark bluish brown; anterior parts of the face from the muzzle to between the eyes, brown — a blackish line running up the inside of each frontal pedestal; chin, throat, inside of hind legs, and under surface of tail, white. The female has a black bristly tuft of hair on the spot from which the pedicles of the antlers of the male grow. The average length of the male, according to Jerdon, is 3½ feet, tail 7 inches, height 26 to 28 inches. The female is a little smaller. The specimens from Java, Sumatra, and Borneo are of larger size than those from the mainland, and may possibly be of distinct species or race.

2. C. lacrymans of Milne-Edwards, or Sclater's Muntjak of Swinhoe, from Moupin, and near Hangchow, China.

3. C. reevesi, a very small species from southern China.

Although the limbs of the modern genus Cervulus have attained a considerable degree of specialization, the characters of the cranium, antlers, and teeth are primitive, and almost exactly reproduce those of an extinct deer of the middle Miocene period, the remains of which are found abundantly at Sansan in the south of France and Steinheim in Würtemberg, which has been described under the names of Dicroccrus elegans and Cervus furcatus (see Die Fauna von Steinheim, by Oscar Fraas, Stuttgart, 1870).